Unfortunately, Croton is not what entrepreneurs consider a hot prospect for retail investment. Since the Croton Expressway was opened, our village has been a backwater, bypassed by a 12.9-mile stub of limited-access highway. Originally intended to be part of a superhighway along the east bank of the Hudson connecting the Tappan Zee Bridge with the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, the purpose was to take traffic pressure off the Saw Mill and Taconic parkways. The Croton Expressway was the only portion built.
Unlike many other Hudson Valley post-industrial communities, Croton was suddenly relieved of the north-south traffic that once passed through on Riverside Avenue (formerly Route 9, now 9A). Motorists on the Expressway bypassing Croton at better than 55 miles an hour are oblivious to what its shops have to offer—or that it even has shops. With the Expressway’s diversion of through traffic a reality, Croton’s retail customer base was diminished, leaving Croton’s population as its shops’ principal customers. This has had a significant effect on the kind and number of retail establishments that can start up and flourish here. It’s also the reason we should all shop locally lest more shops fail.
Croton welcomed the Expressway, but paid dearly for the tradeoff in reduced retail business. Even in times of prosperity, total occupancy of Croton’s existing retail space has been difficult to achieve. According to the New York State Department of Transportation, the Expressway handles approximately 40,000 motor vehicles per day. Had they been traveling on Riverside Avenue, a fraction of these potential customers might have been inclined to stop and make purchases in shops along Riverside Avenue, including in Harmon.
In creating three gateways with the idea of welcoming motorists exiting the Expressway to shop in Croton, planners made a fatal error. They neglected to gather marketing data by stationing one person with a clipboard at each “gateway” for a day to ask motorists, “Are you coming to Croton to shop?” Had they done this they would have discovered that few cars exit the Expressway for the purpose of shopping. Wishful planning created imaginary gateways on paper to accommodate phantom motorcades of shoppers that will never appear. Proponents of zoning change and a revamped Harmon are simply closing their eyes to the existence of the Expressway and its attenuating effect on retail trade in Croton. (To be continued)
— Robert Scott